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Kings’ Mitchell (knee) medically cleared, but hesitant to return — is Sutter annoyed?

Jan 24, 2013, 1:32 PM EDT

Darryl Sutter, Willie Mitchell Getty Images

On Wednesday, LA Kings head coach Darryl Sutter delivered a message to defenseman Willie Mitchell, who’s been cleared to play after lockout knee surgery.

“You know what, he’s got doctor’s clearance,” Sutter told the LA Times. “He’s got trainers’ clearance. Coaches want him to clear himself.

“So do it.”

Is that terseness or bluntness from the bench boss?

Hard to say.

It’s clear Sutter’s none too pleased about his team’s start. The Kings looked flat in a 5-2 loss to Chicago in their home opener, then blew a third period lead in Colorado — prior to that, the Kings went 86-0-9 in 95 games when leading after 40 minutes — to start the season 0-2.

Along the way, he lost the services of defenseman Matt Greene (back) and was forced to give Jake Muzzin (15:23) and Davis Drewiske (10:23) serious minutes against the Avs.

That said, Sutter is a veteran coach and knows it’s far too early to panic.

He’s also been a straight-shooter throughout his career, and this may have been an instance of him simply telling it like it is.

As for Mitchell — well, this isn’t the first time he’s been overly cautious about returning from injury. He suffered a concussion while playing in Vancouver and, after recovering, reflected on the pressure and stress he felt about returning to the ice.

“Everywhere I’d walk: ‘How’s your head? How’s your head?” Mitchell told the Times back in January 2012. “That’s the last thing I wanted to talk about. I just wanted to disconnect from that.

“So that’s what I did. I went to my place in the middle of nowhere in the forest and just chilled.”

While he’s not living in wooded isolation this time around, Mitchell says he’ll still be coming back on his terms.

“I don’t want to get out there and be a liability to my defense partner, to my teammates, to my coach,” he said. “When I come back I don’t want to come back, play the next couple of games and then [the knee] swells up and be out.”

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